Why Exercise is Important for Parkinson’s Disease

Lack of physical activity is considered as one of the main reasons that worsen the condition of patients with Parkinson’s disease. This is because; inactivity of the physical and mental state of the body accelerates the degenerative process. Epidemiological research shows that regular physical activity & exercise greatly reduces the risks of developing degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.[1] Furthermore, the onset of symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease is delayed if they are involved in physical activities.[2]

Mobility

Incorporating several small sessions of exercise and physical training on a daily basis is a good therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease because of its direct benefits in improvement of mobility. Exercise helps patients by:

Muscle Strength

Muscle strength can be severely compromised in patients with Parkinson’s disease. Most commonly, the muscles of the lower limbs are affected, generating inadequate power for mobility.  Exercises for improving muscle strength include strength-training programs, balancing drills on both stable and unstable surfaces, etc. All with the objective of improving muscle(motor) recruitment as well as strength. Performing such exercises 2-3 times a week and focusing on one set of muscles group each time, provides much improved muscular strength.

In addition, high intensity interval training (HIIT Training) as been studied to provide better functional performance in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This is because of much greater muscle hypertrophy due to such exercises. Therefore, High intensity exercises are a good therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease because of preserving muscular strength, and promoting structural and metabolic plasticity in the musculoskeletal system.[3]

Balance

Patients with Parkinson’s disease are at a much higher risk of falls due to episodes of freezing and muscular weakness.  Therefore, exercise involving a combination of strength and balance training can be a good therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

Several movements such as ‘Tai Chai for Parkinson’s” and Pilates should be incorporated in daily exercise to stimulate sensory integration in the control of posture.  More specifically, Tai Chai is proved to have beneficial effects on patients with moderate to severe symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.[4]

Furthermore, patients with Parkinson’s disease undergoing exercises that help them practice daily activities of living such as changing, eating etc, achieve a higher success rate in maintaining their balance.

Physical Conditioning

Patients with Parkinson’s disease demonstrate a gradual loss of cardio respiratory functions. Aerobic exercises are the best ways to improve cardiovascular fitness. Regular aerobic exercise with a heart rate monitor, help improve patients’ motor response.

Furthermore, aerobic exercises are known to have neuroprotective effects on patients with Parkinson’s disease. Several studies have shown that these exercises improve the quality of life, not just by improved efficiency of cardiovascular system, but also by restoring neuronal pathways that are affected in Parkinson’s disease.[5]

A well-planned exercise in patients with Parkinson’s disease can be of great therapeutic potential by slowing disease progression and managing stress.

 

[1] Chen et al.2005, Sasco et al. 1992

[2] Tsai et al. (2002)

[3] Dibble et al. 2006

[4] Hackney & Earhart 2008

[5] Fisher et al. 2004